Writing in Morning Consult, Towns stated: “If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is the importance of proper nutrition as a cornerstone of a 'health first' strategy. But unfortunately, most Americans — particularly lower-income Americans — are not receiving the care they so desperately need.”
Towns noted that he supports the recent resolution introduced by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) to recognize the significant role vitamin D may play in the fight against COVID-19.
Towns, a New York Democrat who served in the US House of Representatives between 1983 and 2013 representing two different districts in Brooklyn, also called for Congress to “consider legislation that modernizes the treatment of dietary supplements. Currently, neither SNAP nor WIC allows participants to purchase vitamin supplements through the program. Additionally, the Internal Revenue Service’s definition of “medical expenses” currently denies Americans reimbursement for nutritional and dietary supplements through their Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements,” he stated.
“As health care costs continue to rise, many Americans are turning to these innovative alternatives to meet their health care needs with maximum flexibility,” Towns stated in the Morning Consult. “We need to provide all Americans, especially our most vulnerable, with more choices regarding their health care. Expanding access to vitamin supplements through SNAP, WIC, HSAs and FSAs is the perfect bipartisan opportunity that recognizes the health benefits that nutritional supplements can and do provide our nation.”
Last month, Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced S.380 to “amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve access to health care through expanded health savings accounts”.
The Bill was introduced on February 23, and is supported by Rubio’s fellow Republican senator from South Carolina, Tim Scott.
In April 2020, dietary supplement trade associations wrote to the IRS to propose an administrative change in the way that it defines what products can be purchased with tax advantaged medical savings accounts, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). The letter was signed by the heads of the American Herbal Products Association, the Consumer Health Products Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the United Natural Products Alliance.
NPA: “The issue of expanding access to supplements is bigger than party politics”
Commenting on Towns’ opinion piece, Dr Daniel Fabricant, PhD, President and CEO of the Natural Products Association (NPA), told NutraIngredients-USA that the issue of expanding access to supplements is bigger than identity politics or political party affiliation. All people want to stay healthy, he said.
“NPA is grateful to former Congressman Towns for that well-delivered message,” said Dr Fabricant. “Congressmen Towns and Grothman may come from very different backgrounds but if they can come together on issues like how important access to Vitamin D is right now then we owe it to all Americans to make our voices heard and continue to tell all members of congress to expand access whether through HSAs, through giving out vitamin D in schools, adding multivitamins to WIC and SNAP.”
Dr Fabricant called on stakeholders to contact their lawmakers and add their voices to the calls for expanding access. This can be done either directly or via a portal like NPA’s Action Center.